November 27, 2022

Advent Ramble

Advent brings a new year of grace with its promise of a new beginning for each of us. May we enter into this privileged season that the Church calls a time of "devout and expectant delight." (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year)

In my early experience of religious life it was beat into us that Advent wasn't a penitential season. Like a lot of what I was taught early on, this needs more nuance. Certainly Advent is a time for metanoia, for turning our attention toward the One who is our deepest delight, to a stance of devout expectation for the God who is arriving fresh in each moment. As John the Baptist will cry out on the Second Sunday of Advent, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

At hand. The Kingdom is perpetually about to be. This is the patient and humble God who awaits the friendship of those who will surrender to his kingship in their hearts in whatever the next moment is for them, whether it be prayer or work or rest, or especially a moment of encounter with another soul.

This attentiveness to the God who is arriving, this adventitious God, is the spiritual work of those of us who live in this graced and blessed time in between the first and second comings of Christ. Advent invites us to a contemplative attentiveness in this in-betweenness, as we look back with joy to the humility of the incarnation and forward to the glory of the final fulfillment of everything in Christ.

This attentiveness in quiet prayer is what makes a space for God to be born anew in our own hearts. And if our hearts are sometimes dark or cold, let us rejoice all the more, for that is just the sort of place God wills to be born.

As one of my Capuchin formation directors told us at the beginning of Advent, "Let us begin again for the first time."

April 15, 2022

The Easter Itinerancy

(An old post updated)

Every year on this holy night I reflect on the grace of itinerancy that the Holy Spirit has given me; only twice in my whole baptism have I been in the same place for the Easter Vigil for more than two years in a row. When I think about all the places I've been for the Vigil, it puts me in awe of God and in a state of gratitude for my journey.

Here's my Easter Vigil history:
  • 2022: Our Lady of Sorrows, White Plains, NY
  • 2021: Our Lady of Sorrows, White Plains, NY

  • 2020: (COVID-19 pandemic, prayed what is provided in the Liturgy of the Hours for qui sollemni Vigilæ paschali non interfuerunt)
  • 2019: Basilica of St. Teresa of Ávila, Rome
  • 2018: Basilica of St. Camillo de Lellis, Rome
  • 2017: Basilica of St. Camillo de Lellis, Rome (in the 25th year of my baptism)
  • 2016: Capuchin General Curia, Rome (concelebrant)

December 4, 2021

Preparing the Way of the Lord

“John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3)

John the Baptist is one of the central characters of Advent; he is the Forerunner who prepares the way of the Lord. By repentance and the forgiveness of sins we too prepare ourselves as a place for the Lord to be born anew. By repentance, because when we let go of sin and attachment we make room in our minds and hearts, preparing a space for God within. By receiving forgiveness, because it is by experiencing God’s mercy that we are able to mirror that mercy to others; knowing God’s mercy in our own lives, we become ourselves the way that the Lord prepares for divine mercy to come into the world.

(reflection prepared for our vocation office's social media)

August 12, 2021

Life After Traditionis Custodes

The other day I received a request: would I be willing, at some point in the near future, to celebrate a Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

First of all, I presume what was meant was would I celebrate a Mass according to the 1962 Missal, what was called the 'Extraordinary Form' before Traditionis custodes.

As I started to consider the request I came to realize that the motu proprio doesn't seem to address my situation. The letter gives direction to two kinds of priests:

Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.

Art. 5. Priests who already celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.

I take the sense of Article 5 as celebrating in this way regularly or habitually. I have never celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form publicly. Ordained right around the time of Summorum pontificum, I learned the older form, curious as I was about this new faculty granted by Pope Benedict, practiced, and celebrated privately a few times. But I haven't done so since leaving the parish assignment in 2010 (I had access to a number of fitting altars there). I also tried to learn the Breviarium Romanum and prayed some of my hours from the Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum sometimes, especially for the little hours, until on my reading of Universae Ecclesiae I decided that such mixing and matching wasn't really allowed.

In the end I'm glad for these inspirations because I learned a lot about the Mass and even got free chant lessons at one of the Extraordinary Form groups in Boston during my period in the doctoral program at Boston College. And perhaps the "mutual enrichment" that Benedict hoped for in Summorum pontificum has thus been accomplished in my priesthood. Given the closeness I feel to the Pope Emeritus, to know that would give me encouragement and comfort.

So where does Traditionis custodes leave a priest found already ordained upon its publication but not celebrating according to what was, until that day, called the Extraordinary Form? I'm honestly not sure. Am I like a new priest, needing the permission of the bishop confirmed by the Holy See in order to celebrate with the 1962 Missal, or am I like a priest who was celebrating this way upon the publication of the letter, needing only the authorization of the bishop? Or am I, as I suspect on my reading of the spirit of Traditionis custodes, neither of these things, but simply someone who has lost the faculty to celebrate in the older form, period, and without any justification for seeking to have it back.

Comments welcome.

April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday

(Reflection prepared for our vocation department's social media)

Today we wake up to a new world, a new creation that is risen within us by virtue of what happened last night at the great Vigil in the Holy Night: we were either baptized or renewed the promises of our baptism. This new life rising within us cries out and shakes us awake with the great Easter slogan: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above! (Colossians 3:1)

The Resurrection of the Lord and our baptism into the new creation it inaugurates are the deepest of mysteries; this is why Mother Church gives us the longest of her privileged seasons—the fifty days of Easter—to journey into them.

Today on Easter Sunday there is just the announcement—Christ is risen! Over these fifty days the Easter mystery will unfold into how the Risen Lord is present to us—the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, and so on—until we arrive at the great day of Pentecost and the celebration of the Risen Lord’s abiding and animating presence in his Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

March 7, 2021

Temple, Priest, and Sacrifice

 (Reflection prepared for our vocation department's social media)

3rd Sunday of Lent

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) So replies Jesus to those who protest his cleansing of the Temple. But they don’t realize “he was speaking about the temple of his body.” (2:21)

What is a temple? In the most general terms, it is a place or structure where sacrifice is offered, typically by priests, who are persons appointed to offer such sacrifices. Jesus Christ is all of these things at once: “the priest through whom we are reconciled, the sacrifice by which we are reconciled, the temple where we are reconciled, and the God to whom we are reconciled.” (St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Office of Readings for Friday of the 5th week of Lent)

By our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ and our communion with him in the Eucharist, we enter into the Temple of his Body and his priesthood enters into us, enabling us to be “built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) This is the priesthood shared by all the baptized. As we continue the journey of Lent, may we enter anew the Temple of the Lord’s Body that his priesthood and his Sacrifice may find a home in us.

February 24, 2021

What Kind Of Sinner?

 (Reflection prepared for our vocation department's social media)

Wednesday of the 1st week of Lent

The people of Nineveh were said to be wicked enough to have their wickedness rise up before God (Jonah 1:2) and yet Jesus offers them as an example of repentance. (Luke 11:32) And their conversion was indeed thorough; even the animals had to fast and wear sackcloth! (Jonah 3:7-8)

This can serve to remind us—notwithstanding our often sloppy speech about spiritual things—that saint is not the opposite of sinner. A saint is just a sinner who has refused to let the experience of sin—the boredom, frustration, and unhappiness of its ‘empty promises’—harden and close his heart, but instead has allowed this pain to break his heart open, open to God and to his fellow sinners in their suffering.

On this our Lenten journey toward either baptism or renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter, let us make up our mind to be that kind of sinner.